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Production of subterranean resources in the Atacama Desert 19th and early 20th century mining/water extraction in The Taltal district, northern Chile

Abstract : The Chilean water model imposed by the Chilean dictatorship in 1981 is broadly known as a radical example of neoliberal water management. Several studies have focused their analyses on this model, and its relation to mining, from a political ecology perspective; however, this has minimized the broader historical context. In this paper, we followed a geohistorical standpoint to gain an extensive understanding of the processes of mining development and the related water extraction in the Atacama Desert. By analyzing different official documents, historical sources and scientific discourses of the 19th and early 20th centuries, we aimed to denaturalize the idea of the Atacama Desert as hyper-arid space, rich in mineral resources. By doing so, from a political ecology perspective, and with a critical approach to territory, we interrogated the mining development in the Taltal district (1840–1920). This exercise led us to understand the Atacama Desert as a socially-produced mining territory, or miningscape, where foreign actors have produced hegemonic discourses and uneven materialities. Here, water, minerals, global markets, scientific knowledge, political and legal discourses, and colonialism have inevitably become interwoven in a territorial long-standing production process. Thus, we propose that the production of miningscapes and waterscapes are entangled process in the Andes mining territories. In turn, this process has enabled the reproduction of the Chilean state, capital accumulation, and the consolidation of a modern project at the expense of local populations and rationalities, which have been invisibilized. © 2020 Elsevier Ltd
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https://hal-univ-rennes1.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02570380
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 8:58:59 AM
Last modification on : Monday, June 8, 2020 - 4:44:17 PM

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Manuel Méndez, Manuel Prieto, Milton Godoy. Production of subterranean resources in the Atacama Desert 19th and early 20th century mining/water extraction in The Taltal district, northern Chile. Political Geography, Elsevier, 2020, 81, pp.102-194. ⟨10.1016/j.polgeo.2020.102194⟩. ⟨hal-02570380⟩

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